The memory of a young man who bore a debilitating illness with great spirit was honoured at the recent Cashel Youth Achievement Awards.
At the inaugural Cashel Youth Achievement Awards Night a special award was presented to the family of the late Larry Harding, by Ann Bradshaw, head of Cashel Gold Star Initiative, a project which deals with the needs of people with disability in the Cashel area.
In her address she said how honoured and humbled she was to be the one to make the award to Larry's family in recognition of the wonderful and talented work that Larry did with Cashel Gold Star during his short time with the project.
Born in 1988 Larry lived most of his young and short life with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative muscular disease, and he passed to his eternal reward in April last, just a few weeks after celebrating his 22nd birthday.
Because of the nature of his disability Larry found it difficult to leave his home for the last two years of his life, Mrs Bradshaw, said she felt extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity and the absolute pleasure of getting to visit Larry at his home in the company of his parents Dennis and Bridget, his sisters Donna and Denise and his grandmother Bridget.
"Larry had the biggest smile you would ever witness. If I could say one thing she said that might help or console his family, it is that every time I met Larry, he was happy. Indeed he used this as his slogan for describing himself 'Happy as Larry.' He always bore his illness with dignity and the most amazing high spirits," Mrs Bradshaw said.
Continuing she said it was right that we don't focus on the disability, we should highlight and celebrate the person that Larry was, he was funny, witty and so artistically talented.
"His family have told me that he had figured out at a very young age how to charm his way out of any situation. He realised because he had a disability, himself and his friends could get up to all sorts of devilment in school and they need never fear punishment because Larry could rely on his belief that... 'Don't worry lads, I'll take the blame, the teachers won't give out to me'."
Larry was very witty, some years ago his sister Donna, was crowned Queen of the Suir, he thought it was important she didn't get too high an opinion of herself, would refer to her as Queen of the Sewer, when she entered a room, Mrs Bradshaw told the gathering.
"Larry was happy, and always struck one as a very contended young man because he was so protected and secure in his family home. His parents deserve an award themselves for the wonderful, round the clock and constant care they took of Larry.
"He didn't leave his home in his final years because he didn't need to. Larry had everything he needed and provided for him by his loving family, he had a permanent position niched for himself in front of the television in the family's front room, and referred to it as his window to the world.
"He had his computers and his artistic talent to keep him going from a very young age, his mother says he had everything he wanted and as soon as his young sister Denise could walk Larry figured out that she could be his arms and legs and she helped him achieve whatever he wanted.
Above all, Larry always wanted to be famous and if it any small consolation to his family, it is important to say that with the publication of his calendar in co-operation with Tesco, Cashel, and their support in promoting his artwork in the community, Larry felt he was finally becoming famous.
"This year Gold Star used some of his other work to create a beautiful Christmas card, which many local shops agreed to sell in order to raise disability awareness again."
In summing up Mrs Bradshaw, went on to say that if being famous is to mean being courageous, and inspiring and a role model for others with disability and to be strong in the face of insurmountable challenges, then Larry Harding was one of the most famous young men she ever had the pleasure to know.
She concluded by saying in March 1988 a light came into the world in the person of Larry Harding, in April 2010 that light was turned down, but "tonight we would like to make this presentation to Larry's family to remember him and make sure his memory will not be lost in our community."
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